November 16, 2015

Term Limits: Why?

by New Hampshire Voter Barbara Glassman @NHvoter @BarbaraGlassman https://www.facebook.com/newhampshire.voter/

“Term limits are always popular until they find out, you know, who’s not term-limited: lobbyists. And guess who's in charge in every state legislature that has term limits in this country--the un-term-limited lobbyists are . . . term limits--I bought into it until I saw that happen.”
                                                                                 --Chuck Todd, 10/21/2016

My heart sank when the young, extraordinarily capable elected official reached the point in his talk where he pledged to voluntarily term-limit himself. He said he felt obliged to make way for someone else to have a shot at service to their community. I could only hope he might reconsider when the time comes.

Candidates of his caliber are the exception. In the semirural Pennsylvania township where I had lived, we Democrats were often unable to recruit anyone to run for township supervisor. Even when we did a few years ago, they lost to two Republican retirees--one a multimillionaire, whose hostility to taxes led them to oppose even a tiny increase to help fund the struggling volunteer fire company.

Term limits are a natural expression of the right's government-bashing ideology. It serves them well to eject elected officials before they are experienced and secure enough to challenge the orthodoxy of entrenched special interests.

What motivates some of my allies on the left to embrace term limits? What is gained by throwing some bums out if they are immediately replaced by more of the same corporate shills? Would we be willing to sacrifice the likes of John Conyers, John Lewis, Alan Grayson, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or the late Ted Kennedy?

Shouldn't we be countering the contempt for "career politicians" by asking how democracy can survive without them? How many working people--perhaps with families to support--can afford to interrupt their nonpolitical careers for a few years of public service? This country needs *more* career politicians like Bernie Sanders.

Here’s to a more targeted attack on politicians who don’t serve the people. Those who do deserve our loyalty. And, as a reader noted, we already have term limits; they're called elections.

PS Need more convincing? Try this thought experiment. Imagine saying to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, or your favorite legislator, "Thanks for your service but we don't think you should be allowed to run for another term."